We all know that person. Or two. Elderly people who have lived so long they no longer give two craps one way or the other what they say to you or how you feel.
As a PT, I experience a LOT of people like that. Both men and women.
Today I was out to dinner with a co-worker at The Brick Saloon, the oldest bar/tavern in Washington State, and we saw a current elderly patient.
One of the patient’s friends, upon looking at me, said, “Let me put on my sunglasses so I can see you better. You’re so white it’s blinding!”
BAHAHA!!! Seriously! Then, she proceeded to stare aghast at me when I told her I had actually garnered a bit of a tan from being out on a boat two weekends previous.
Anyone who’s seen me in person knows I’m as pasty as a new bottle of Elmer’s, but I’m still shocked when people say stuff like that.
I wasn’t offended, but it got me thinking…
How often do writers accurately portray the elderly? I think I’m fairly accurate because of my profession, but too many times I see people write elderly characters as being sweet, gentle, and passive.
Coming from someone who knows, most elderly are NOT that way. There are definitely some like that, but once people get past a certain age, their filters crumble and fade.
So when you’re writing elderly characters, think to yourself: “Would my grandma or grandpa say that? Would my great-aunt Philomena? What about that lady you always see at the drugstore or market who’s always giving the employee a hard time?
If you want to be accurate, go spend some time with the elderly. Do a nice deed and volunteer at a nursing home or a hospital. Bring cheer to someone’s life and learn a few things, as well. The elderly have so much to teach us, and a lot of it is brutal in its honesty.
“You cannot correct an old person every time they say something offensive. You would never make it through Thanksgiving dinner!”
― Stephen Colbert
“…but oh, it would just break your heart to see some of them waiting for their visitors. They get their hair all done up on Saturday, and on Sunday morning they get themselves all dressed and ready, and after all that, nobody comes to see them. I feel so bad, but what can you do? Having children is no guarantee that you’ll get visitors . . . No, it isn’t.”
― Fannie Flagg
“Youth can not know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”
― J.K. Rowling,